slow economics, fast arrows, stable society

by rebecca on June 25, 2010

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       Today my altared space is a store called Red Rock Archery. Recently I was picking up arrows for my son who shoots competitively in our local 4-H group. Little did I know the trip would be an economics lesson for me.

       On the front door of Red Rock Archery hangs a sign, “No dogs allowed.” Inside I am greeted first by one dog, then another. It’s a slow paced store where all the rules of traditional commerce are broken.

       Initially, when we first began visiting the place I was befuddled. Certainly there is no instant customer service agent trying to sell me something. I am accustomed to having to fend off sales agents as I make purchasing decisions and I didn’t know how to handle the laid back atmosphere.

      Gabe Lucero, who has owned the store for 27 years with his wife, Sis, knows that doing business is about making relationships and making things fun. Shooting a bow is a pleasure that archers take seriously.

       They enjoy hanging around and jawing about recent escapades. Maybe they spend a few bucks between stories, maybe they don’t. But, eventually, everyone needs new arrows and most want an upgraded bow. They’ll buy it where they talk about it.

       I don’t know how to do this bow-talk. I felt out of place in this dive. But my son? He was in heaven. Once, after we’d spent an hour at Gabe’s store because we needed an arm guard (a ten minute errand anywhere else) my son left the store with a smile and that deep sense of contentment a mother could recognize from across the parking lot.

       “You love that store, don’t you?” I asked.

       “Don’t you?”

       “Actually, I’m not sure I understand Gabe’s store. It’s so slow.”

       And this is when my Zen teacher of a son opened my eyes to the magic of Gabe’s place, “That’s what’s so great about it. Everywhere else you go in life everything is so rushed. Here there’s no hurry. It’s like fishing. You’re just hangin’ out.”

       Gabe knows my son. Not because we’ve met under any other circumstances, but because he cares about his customers, because he runs his business slowly enough to notice.

       When we walk in after a six-month hiatus Gabe remarks, “I’m betting we need to increase the draw length on your bow since you’ve grown about half a foot since I last saw you.” My son offers a shy smile and shuffles his foot against the concrete floor. Someone he respects has seen him.

       Gabe was out of the carbon fiber tubing he needed to make my son’s arrows. When I described my predicament that the competitive season was on and we’re trying to offer my son practice he had a solution. “I’ll find something for you.” And because we live a long way out of town and wouldn’t be back before the next practice day when his store would be closed he made arrangements to hide the arrows for us in a secret locale.

       “I’ll settle up with you later,” he told me.  I owed him nearly $100 for those arrows. He was willing to trust that I would catch up with him and pay him. People just don’t run businesses that way anymore.

       On my way home I heard a story about the newest way to trade stocks. Seconds and half seconds are the new defining time line when it comes to winners and losers in the trading game on Wall Street.

       Because the clock is so critical, the closer a traders’ computer is physically to the ultimate trading pool, the more they are able to beat out their competition. Consequently, a giant brick building has been erected at stock-central to house cubicles for trading junkies and their laptops. So there they sit, stuffed like squash seeds into the belly of a windowless building, each one, aching to be at the front of the line.

       They buy a promise of money and hold it for milliseconds. They make a penny here, a penny there. They do this enough times that it adds up to millions of dollars. But what have they created?

       Did they make something I can hold in my hand? A place to gather and tell stories where my boy can grow up and learn about becoming a man who trusts people to pay him $100 when they next see one another? Where he is seen and noticed when he grows taller?

       I think there is something interesting going on in our society when we have an economic meltdown so hefty that millions of people lose their jobs and their homes and still we persist in the myth that chasing the micro dollar made of air is more enviable than the salary created by relationship and trust.

       What target is it exactly at which we are taking careful aim?

  

 

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese June 25, 2010 at 10:23 am

Hi Rebecca – I think this piece fits right in to our larger conversation about time and balance. Embracing the slow seems like a lost art these days, but I’m glad you have an example of it in your own life – and that you chose to share it with us. (By the way, I heard that same piece on NPR; makes me give new credence to my grandmother’s solution of saving by stashing her cash underneath her mattress.)

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Corinne June 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

I love the idea of that store. What an incredible place to learn life lessons right and left 🙂 Glad, especially, that your son has that.

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Yvette Francino June 26, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Another example of success being more about relationships than about money. Thanks for your many reminders of the importance of taking the time to recognize and relish our own altared spaces.

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Patrice June 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Hi Reb,

What a wonderful story. We do move too fast and appreciate slow too little. Children are good teachers of slow. I can sit for hours and watch the grand babies sleep or play with a toy. I am learning to see them at this slower speed which makes me occasionally stop to “see” other people. Just as Gabe “sees” your son. It’s just so easy to get caught up in the “cubicle life” seeing only the four walls of our limited vision. Running at a pace where life is a blur and faces never register.

Thanks for the reminder to slow down and see people.

How good it feels to be “seen”.

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Amber June 27, 2010 at 10:11 pm

This is the same reason I attend many of the local shops in my little town: the felling of importance. I think that the blogging world offers the same validation to many, including me.

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SuziCate June 28, 2010 at 9:26 am

Nice piece. Those types of stores and mechants are few and far between. They establish loyal customers due to their trust. And your son is very wise.

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Hyacynth June 28, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Rebecca, I am floored by this post. Literally, I’m sitting here thinking about the very core truths of your observation, and I’m just trying to dig up each layers upon layer buried here in one moment.
I long for days when Gabe’s store was the norm. I cringe that so many people’s lives and livelihoods are wrapped up in money they can never and will probably never grasp. And I mourn that stores like Gabe’s are the very ones that suffer in the face of an economic crisis often times. Mostly for the reasons you cited — because there are real lessons to be learned about life there. And I wonder what types of lessons people learn as they sit crammed together in a small building buying and selling as fast as possible. I really do wonder.
Thanks for linking up. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

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Stacia July 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

“Someone he respects has seen him.” Yes! We all want that, don’t we? For our children and even for ourselves.

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